Advice for Christian Introverts at Social Gatherings

While people who meet me may not immediately recognize it, I am an an introvert. Fortunately, I am not the type of introvert who seeks to avoid any type of interaction with people. But at the same time, I don't particularly welcome it. When offered the opportunity to choose between going to a party and staying home with a good book or a movie, unless I am good friends with the people at the party I will always opt to stay home. 

But, of course, that's not the way it works. Being married to a wonderful woman who is much more of an extrovert than I am, I am often forced to go to social gatherings of various types where there are people with whom I am not particularly comfortable. In the past, I would hang around with my wife, but that almost always made me feel like some unwanted bystander to her conversations. So, inevitably, I would move off to a corner where I would happily smile and talk to people who took the time to approach me, but I rarely made any real effort to initiate interaction with people who I didn't know particularly well. Fortunately, learning over time that people do tend to like me has made me less of an introvert, but I remain uncomfortable at social gatherings and usually I am pushing my wife to leave earlier than she would prefer. If she didn't love me and forgive my inadequacies, I don't know how we would stay married. 

But in reading today, I found a suggestion for introverts like me that could help me (and other Christians who share the same dislike of social gatherings) to be more interactive at gatherings in a way that is pleasing the God. The book is by Robert Morris and is entitled The God I Never Knew. Chapter 2 has a small section where Pastor Morris speaks about his own difficulties at parties which I found very similar to my own. He writes: 
When we were first married, I used to dread Debbie's dragging me to Christmas parties. She naturally has a happy and outgoing personality, and she would invariably run off to chat with a friend while I was left to fend for myself.At the end of the night, when we got in the car to go home, I'd be upset with her. She couldn't understand why. She didn't know she had done anything wrong because, of course, she hadn't. But I would get a pathetic tone in my voice and say, "You left me!""What do you mean, Robert? I was there all night!""You left me. And I was all alone. And ... and people came up to me ... and talked to me. It was horrible."

Now, I don't know if anyone else can relate to this, but I certainly can. If what Pastor Morris is describing is foreign to you, this post is not for you. But if this conversation rings true to you, or you recognize yourself in this conversation, Pastor Morris continues to relate how he now deals with these situations that I believe can help Christian introverts make it through the gathering in a God-pleasing way. 

First, he relates on a time when he went to a party with the usual introverted sullen approach, and his wife went off to speak to her friends leaving him alone. He grumbled in his heart about being left alone, but the Holy Spirit spoke to Pastor Morris and said, "I'm here, Robert, and you're not alone!" Truer words were never spoken. 

From that point, Pastor Morris used those times at the party to engage in conversation with our mutual friend, the Holy Spirit. Not that he is shutting himself into a little pocket where he refuses to engage with people while speaking with the Spirit. Rather, he is asking the Spirit to use him to bless the other people in the room or to help them out in some way that only the Spirit would know. Pastor Morris relates another story that illustrates how this might happen. 

At one point a man walked up and started a conversation. Instead of looking for a window to climb out of, I asked the Holy Spirit to use me to bless or help this person. The Holy Spirit prompted me to ask him about an area of his life and seemed quite personal. Still, I obeyed his prompting, and said, "Are you doing okay with...?" and then mentioned with the Holy Spirit had revealed to me. The man looked at me in shock for a few seconds and then begin to cry. I had the humble privilege of praying for him and giving him some desperately needed encouragement.

Of course, this is an apologetics blog. Still, it seems to me that there is no reason that we cannot apply Pastor Morris' principle of using time at social gatherings to speak with the Spirit and ask Him to direct us to the person or persons also in attendance who are most open to hearing the message of the Gospel.

So here's my suggestion: if you find yourself at a social gathering where you don't know many people and your introvert nature makes you inclined to shrink into the corner and not interact with people, take the time to pray silently and ask the Holy Spirit to point out to you where you can help someone along the path to Christianity. Now you should beware: the Holy Spirit is under no obligation to give you an apologetics mission. The Holy Spirit may tell you that you need to pray with a particular person. This may be outside your comfort zone, but it is something that you ought to do if God is asking you to do it through the working of his Holy Spirit.

However, perhaps, just perhaps, the Holy Spirit will direct you to someone in the room with whom we need to plant a seed, or a water a seed, or may direct you to that person who is ready to harvest. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to use your apologetics learning in a way that is directed by the Holy Spirit to the person most likely to respond at that time? If you're like me, this is an attractive option to spending time sitting in the corner of the party feeling miserable about being there. I would much rather take the time to reach other people about Jesus, and appealing to the Spirit for direction is certainly the best way to get there.


Anonymous said…
It's interesting how (in the majority of these cases) the wife is the one that's extroverted, but the husband isn't. Could it be that men treat each other worse starting in seventh grade (no encouragement. It's almost always about competition, and the jerks get rewarded more than the nice guy) than women do?
BK said…
I think it's because God made women more relational than men. Men have a tendency to want to control things and make things bend to our wills. Women, while more passive-aggressive than men, still tend to try to be work things out and compromise more. So, they are naturally better at communication and socializing then men. Just my thoughts.

Don McIntosh said…
Great post. I do think there is much wisdom here for Christians like me (and you evidently), who are more naturally prone to withdraw and complain during traditional social gatherings than to seek opportunities to glorify God.

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